Three damaging myths about failure that we need to debunk

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What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail?

What if any failure, any mess-up, any time that things didn’t go as you hoped, you could learn from?

What if you didn’t let failure knock you down and out for the count?

You’d be pretty unstoppable.

This is resilience, and the good news is that it’s a skill you can build.

So say Sara Tate and Anna Vogt in their new book, The Rebuilders: Going From Setback to Comeback in Business and Beyond.

‘Resilience is the skill of the 21st Century that is, as of now, totally untapped,’ they tell Metro.co.uk. ‘It’s a survival skill; something you will definitely use on a daily basis.

‘Things go wrong in life and at work – quite often, in fact.

‘Resilience helps us digest these failures in a way that can be productive and even somewhat successful.

‘Focus on resilience. It’s a muscle that becomes stronger the more you use it. Everyone can do it.

‘And it’s one of those skills that is guaranteed to bring you more enjoyment and happiness in life and at work.’

The first step in building resilience? Challenging the way we view failure – and debunking three major myths…

Myth one: You’ve failed because you haven’t met someone else’s goals

‘Some people live their life believing they have failed, simply because they are living a dream that isn’t their own,’ say Sara and Anna.

If you feel like a failure, take a moment to reflect on why. How have you actually failed? Is your path only a failure by someone else’s measures, whether that’s your family, people online, or society as a whole?

Sara and Anna tell us: ‘f you’re at work thinking, this isn’t working or you’re not achieving what those around you are, ask yourself if you are trying to satisfy your own ambitions and playing to your own talents, or if you are simply in that sausage factory of life or career management that just doesn’t suit you.

‘The best way to determine that you are on the right path to living your own version of success is to define your core values as a human being, and your future goals.

‘Your success metrics then fall in between these two objectives. Making sure you are achieving things that make you happy and are taking you to where you want to be.’

Myth two: You’re failing if you’re not fast

Take things at your own pace.

Sara and Anna say: ‘Do you ever feel like you’re not just being judged for what you do, but how fast you can do it? You’re not alone.

‘Most of us feel the added pressure of not just doing our job well but trying to prove we can do it faster than everyone else. Because this shows we are more ambitious, more talented, more dedicated.

‘Well, luckily there is no evidence to suggest that this gets us out of a bind more efficiently.

‘In fact, if we’re constantly proceeding at speed, we are only ever able to rely on our gut instinct to steer us. In order to deploy our analytical skills, we must slow down, stop and think. And that will take time.’

Get rid of the idea that faster is better, in all areas. Going slow is perfectly fine – and can even be better! – in small instances (reading through an email and writing a reply) and big (ticking off your life goals, which really don’t need to be done to a deadline of before you’re 30).

‘Cyclists and runners have pacemakers that run or ride in front of them in order to keep their performance at an optimum level,’ Sara and Anna note. ‘Sometimes slowing down, sometimes speeding up. All with the goal of reaching the end in the best possible time and condition.

‘But their performance depends on being able to regulate their energy up and down.

‘We should have pacemakers in our lives and careers. Or nominate our alter egos to play this role for us from time to time.

‘Slow down, rest, sometimes reverse and go a few steps backwards.

‘This is all in the service of being able to gain perspective, refuel our energy and proceed with clarity, commitment and focus.’

Myth three: If you change course or compromise you’ve failed

Sticking to your guns tends to be held up as the ideal, with people criticised for flip-flopping or going back on their word.

But we should be encouraging keeping an open, flexible mind.

‘We make 35,000 decisions a day,’ Sara and Anna say. ‘Do you reckon some of those might wrong? Of course!

‘Yet we have come to see flexibility as a compromise. A dirty word even. Often cast as the opposite of conviction.

‘When was the last time somebody said, “well done for changing your mind?” Likely never.

‘You’re much more likely to encounter criticism for not sticking to your guns and invest enormous amounts of energy to prove that there is no need to change our minds.

‘Learning how to pivot and bend is a core skill in coping with failure, and becoming more resilient.

‘When we’re rigid we break. Allow yourself to see the world from different perspectives and take pride in evolving how you see people, situations, and decisions.

‘Enlightened leaders are the ones who show flexibility in thought and action. And embrace the (very likely) possibility that things can be done in a million different ways without attaching a value judgement against them.’

Sara Tate and Anna Vogt are the co-authors of new book The Rebuilders: Going From Setback to Comeback in Business and Beyond, out now.

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